Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela arrests Interpol detective over cocaine haul

A Dominican counternarcotics officer shows journalists the haul of cocaine Image copyright DNCD
Image caption The Dominican counternarcotics police seized the cocaine on 24 March

Interpol's chief detective in Venezuela has been arrested over allegations he was involved in shipping 349kg (770lb) of cocaine to the Dominican Republic.

Eliecer Garcia Torrealba, 42, is accused of using his post to allow a plane laden with the drug to take off from Barquisimeto in western Venezuela.

Dominican police searching the Cessna plane found three suitcases and two bags filled with cocaine.

Sixteen people are being held in connection with the case.

Prosecutors say Chief Detective Garcia Torrealba "co-ordinated the necessary actions inside the airport in Barquisimeto to allow the plane laden with cocaine to take off".

There was no immediate comment from Mr Garcia Torrealba himself.

Among the other people arrested are five members of the Venezuelan military and three airport security officials.

A Venezuelan businessman, Pablo Cardenas, has also been detained on suspicion of being the mastermind behind the cocaine shipment.

The US has long accused Venezuelan officials of not doing enough to stop drugs produced in neighbouring Colombia and other South American countries to transit through Venezuela.

They also allege that high-ranking members of the Venezuelan military and people close to government officials have been involved in smuggling drugs.

Two nephews of First Lady Cilia Flores are currently awaiting trial in New York on charges they conspired to import cocaine to the US.

Their hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

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